Are You Ready to Apply Early Decision, or for that matter Early Action?

 

It never fails. As fall approaches each year, college-bound seniors are being asked by their peers, “What schools are you applying early to?” or “What is your ED (early decision) school?” The questions are almost presumptive in tone as if applying early is the best strategy in applying to college.

Students assume they will be applying early…somewhere. Forget about the fact that they may have not even started the essays, done any substantive research into the college or have learned if it is affordable or not and how the adcoms will look at that them.

I remind them each year that if they have identified a college that it absolutely their first choice and would die if not admitted, to discuss the merits with me.  There are many different types of admission policies. Here I will discuss how to approach making the Early Decision, decision. But it is also applicable for Early Action which is often a more competitive pool in which to compete.

However, since Early Decision is a binding commitment to attend if admitted, it is important to make sure that each student considers the most important question of all. That is…Is applying Early Decision the right choice for you? Here’s a self-quiz to help you decide if you’re ready to apply Early Decision.

Answer Yes, No or Not Sure to the following questions:

1. Are you applying Early Decision mainly because you have decided that one particular college is your clear first choice?

2. If the college you’re considering for Early Decision suddenly became less prestigious, or its ranking dropped 50 points, would you still want to apply to this college Early Decision?

3. Would you still want to apply Early Decision to this college if your chances of being admitted Early Decision were the same as if you applied Regular Decision?

4. Have you visited your prospective Early Decision College at least once, and did your visit include taking a formal admissions tour rather than just walking around on your own?

5. Have you visited several other colleges, including taking their formal admissions tour rather than just walking around on your own?

6. Have you had some form of personal contact with the admissions office at your prospective Early Decision College? Have you researched the internship requirements, if any, for your prospective major?

7. Have you had some form of personal contact with a current student at your prospective Early Decision College? Specifically asking them about their experience with academic, internship and career advising.

8. Have you done an overnight stay at your prospective Early Decision College?

9. Have you sat in on at least one class at the Early Decision College, or had some form of personal contact with at least one faculty member there?

10. Do you understand the academic distribution requirements for graduation at your prospective Early Decision College?

11. Do you understand the entry requirements for your prospective major at this college?

12. Do you understand the graduation requirements for your prospective major at the Early Decision College?

13. Have you read the college’s mission statement; how well do you understand it?

14. Do you know what the average class size of introductory courses is at this college?

15. Do you know what the average class size of courses in your prospective major is at this college, and how many students typically graduate with that major each year?

16. Can you explain what some of the strengths and weaknesses of this college’s academic approach or curriculum requirements might be for you personally?

17. Can you explain what some of the strengths and weaknesses of the department in which you hope to major might be for you personally?

18. Do you strongly believe that this college will be an academic fit for you?

19. Have you read back issues of the Early Decision College’s student newspaper (often available online), and could you summarize some of the key “hot button” issues for students from your reading?

20. Do you feel that you will fit in socially at the Early Decision College?

21. Can you list both five potential strengths and five potential weaknesses of the Early Decision College?

22. Do you know what the average GPA, class rank, and test scores of students admitted students to your prospective Early Decision College last year?

23. In comparing your grades through the end of junior year and your current test scores to those of last year’s admitted class, do you believe you are a solid candidate for admission, regardless of whether you apply Early Decision or not?

24. Do you know how the percentage of students admitted last year through Early Decision at this college compares with the percentage of students who were admitted in the regular decision round?

25. Do you feel confident that you will be able to effectively complete all of the elements of an admissions application (essays, recommendation letters, standardized testing, etc.) before the Early Decision deadline?

26. If asked, could you describe in detail why the Early Decision School is right for you and why it is your top choice over other colleges?

27. If asked, could you describe in detail why you are right for the Early Decision College?

28. Do you already have a list of other colleges that you plan to apply to and would be happy to attend if you are not admitted to your Early Decision choice?

29. Have you begun your applications to other colleges besides your Early Decision choice?

30. Do you know if your Early Decision College is need-blind in admissions and guarantees to meet the demonstrated financial need of all admitted students?

31. Have you and your parents done a money saving “Dry Run” with us, or someone else who is familiar with the various financial aid policies at your Early Decision College?

32. If you need financial aid, have you researched the financial aid policies and application procedures of your Early Decision College to get an idea of what the college might expect your family to pay?

33. If you need financial aid, have you researched what the average amount of student debt students at your Early Decision College typically graduate with, and would you and your parents be comfortable if you ended up with a similar amount of student loans?

34. If you need financial aid, are you and your parents fully comfortable with the idea of not being able to compare other financial aid offers if you’re admitted Early Decision?

35. Regardless of whether or not you need financial aid, have you researched merit scholarship opportunities at both your Early Decision and other colleges?

36. Regardless of whether you need financial aid or not, have you and your parents considered all financial implications of applying Early Decision — not just whether you can afford the school, but the opportunity cost of giving up the chance to compare financial aid and merit scholarship offers from other schools?

37. Have you reviewed the Early Decision contract with your parents and school counselor?

38. Do you and your parents understand that Early Decision is a binding commitment, meaning you are promising to attend if admitted, except in the case that the college is unable to meet your demonstrated need as determined by the college’s financial aid policies?

39. If you are accepted Early Decision, will you feel any jealousy or doubts when your friends are receiving multiple acceptances next spring?

40. If you are accepted Early Decision, will you have any regrets about your choice of college?

41. Are you 100% certain that you will attend this college if you are admitted through Early Decision?

How to score your results:

1 points for every “Yes” answer
0 points for every “No” or “Not sure” answer

Are you ready to apply Early Decision? If your score is…

Over 35 points: you appear to have done your research about both the Early Decision College and other college options, and have made a well-thought-out decision. You are ready to proceed with an Early Decision application.

From 25 and 34 points: Early Decision may be right for you, but you need to do more research and thinking. Over the next few weeks, carefully weigh whether Early Decision is right for you and your family’s circumstances.

If you scored 24 points: You are not ready to apply Early Decision, or may be applying Early Decision for the wrong reasons. You should do more research on both the Early Decision process and your college options, and only then consider whether a particular college is a good Early Decision choice.

Give us a call so that we may help you clarify your options and make the right decision for you and your family, particularly if there are siblings to consider.

Yours for future college success…and beyond,

Eric Goodhart

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